As part of our new series, Decoded, we’ve teamed up with Creative Lives in Progress to take a deep dive into emerging digital cultures and technologies. For the third in the series, we examine healthcare, exploring the potential opportunities for emerging creatives, before gaining expert insight from minds + assembly founder Stephen Minasvand.
Illustration by Agnes Jonas.
What role does creativity and design play in healthcare?
For many of us, the idea of healthcare brings to mind images of hospitals, doctors and prescription medicine—perhaps not the most obvious realm for creatives to work in. But creative work has always been present within healthcare: from the pharmacy logo, designed over 2000 years ago, to the friendly interface on the mental health app you may be using.
And thanks to constant evolutions in both technology and attitudes, creatives are needed more than ever to help make sense of all the new information and possibilities. This means anything from cutting-edge virtual reality experiences and creative coding, to designing easy-to-understand labels and diagrams. With the space only continuing to evolve, we walk through the myriad reasons to consider entering the industry, and how you can get started.
How is technology impacting the world of healthcare?
For starters, advances in artificial intelligence, or AI, are giving medical professionals the power to create groundbreaking new ways to predict diseases and illnesses, long before symptoms appear—whether it’s dementia, tumour regrowth or rare forms of brain cancer in children.
Augmented and virtual reality, or AR/VR, is also taking a foothold in healthcare. Take, for example, how PTSD and phobia simulations are being trialled, where potentially triggering situations can be recreated in the safety of a controlled environment, and with patients being guided by therapists.
Though full of promise, like many evolving industries, these advancements don’t come without dangers. These systems depend on large scale sharing of patient data, which has led to concerns over privacy and data leaks, as well as the unauthorized collection of personal patient information—which has been sold on the dark web for high prices.
But while there's a long way to go to mitigate these issues, the industry is learning as it innovates, which in turn offers up space and the opportunity for creatives to be part of possible solutions.
What opportunities are available for creatives in healthcare?
From the traditional to the technological, there’s space in the industry for almost every type of creative.
With simulation-based therapy predicted to be the next big thing, experience designers and environment artists will likely be in high demand. And as users begin to take control of their personal wellbeing and health using wellness apps, UX/UI designers will be required to create accessible and engaging interfaces so that users can manage their conditions independently, not to mention the non-touch devices needed as a result of the pandemic. Products such as holograms will need 3D visual design and animation designers to produce.
Away from tech, though, you might be surprised to learn that there are also plenty of roles that you'd come across in a typical design agency or studio—from copywriters to art directors. Healthcare branding is changing rapidly, too, with medical products and brands in recent years undergoing snazzy branding updates by large medical communication agencies. This includes Moderna, one of the companies responsible for developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
Illustrators, photographers and art curators can also find a space in healthcare—whether that’s transforming medical briefs into easily understandable graphic information, or working with hospitals to curate art to help boost patient and staff morale.
What companies and studios are already working within healthcare?
Increasingly we’re seeing offshoots of advertising companies, such as McCann Health and BBDO Health, enter the sphere. There’s also a growing number of boutique healthcare communication studios like minds + assembly, Gene Agency and Spark Health. There’s even a Cannes Lions category dedicated to the best of pharmaceutical branding!
In these studios, creatives from storyboarders to strategists work in tandem with medical professionals to create anything from branding for new pharmaceutical products, to awareness campaigns for misdiagnosed illnesses. These studios also serve a growing number of start-ups in the industry that aim to disrupt the at-times frustrating process of receiving treatment—from telemedicine apps to mental health therapy messaging services.
National health bodies including the NHS have also been collaborating with UX design agencies to launch user-friendly apps, allowing patients to manage their own conditions for common ailments like Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure.
Stephen Minasvand is the founder of pharmaceutical and healthcare branding studio minds + assembly. Though he didn’t start out in the healthcare industry, he’s become a key creative influence within it. Over the last decade, minds + assembly has worked its way up in the industry and now counts giants including Pfizer, Procter & Gamble and Novartis as clients. Here, Minasvand highlights the benefits of entering the healthcare industry and how emerging creatives can prepare for work within it.
Why might healthcare be an appealing space for emerging creators to work in?
Health is what connects us all universally: it’s guaranteed to touch every human being on this planet, so there's this inherent interest and empathy for it right away. It's something that every person desires to understand—the essence of the human condition. [Working in healthcare gives you the chance] to have an impact on humanity, do something good for others, find meaning in your work—and put your creative talents and passions into practice.
The industry has yet to really feel the effect of what creativity can do to it, as it's been stagnant for so long. But we’re seeing a tremendous shift from people who work in the consumer good or creative domain moving into healthcare. People are asking: What work can I do that really has a mission, a positive effect that helps the world or people?
There are opportunities in health, and people are taking control of the narrative around it through creativity. Today there are creatives who are committing to fighting regulation, the way Big Pharma [the pharmaceutical industry] works and how healthcare is communicated.
Do creatives need medical knowledge to get started?
There is a misconception that you need to have a degree in science, and understand human anatomy or prescription medication. It is not a prerequisite at all; it's just about the willingness to want to learn about it.
We have medical PhDs and MDs on staff who work shoulder-to-shoulder with our designers, writers and creatives. One massive aspect of their job is to simplify high science in a way people from non-scientific backgrounds can understand—for them to understand the mechanism of action, antibodies, human diseases and drugs. If I, the creative, get a baseline understanding, it just brings me closer to what I can do to create something that's more meaningful or authentic.
What kinds of creative skills are most useful and needed in healthcare?
It depends on what you want to do specifically. If you're coming in as a designer, your skills will need to be technical. You need to know how to design on platforms or use software like Figma or Sketch, all the while developing your design and composition sensibilities, your wordsmithing, verbal identity, visuals.
Beyond that, I think what we look for most is just a willingness to try something new, especially because healthcare and wellbeing in pharma is not something that people really understand. This is why the emphasis is on the personality—the creative soul—comes in. It's just what you want to do with it.
What advice would you give to emerging creatives interested in applying their skills to the world of healthcare?
Do some research—find out what aspects of health inspire you. Make it personal; find out what your connection to healthcare is and where you want to have an impact—whether it's mental health, diabetes, or addiction to opioids.
What health needs is creatives who can recognise how they’re affected, and can demonstrate their ability through that curiosity to do more, and challenge it.